Thursday, 22 December 2005


This is the time of the year when the Darwin Awards are announced. These recognise the most idiotic manner in which someone has lost their life through total and utter stupidity. I have always thought that many of the contenders have had something of the Urban Myth about them - funny though they are. This year, I have commenced the Oh My God Awards. These recognise when personal stupidity has conspired with Murphy's Law to create a particularly horrendous error of some sort.

The winner this year - so far - comes from Japan. I'll post it in full rather than give a link as the parent site is littered with pop-up, slides, wipes and just about everything guaranteed to distract from the message of the url.

TOKYO (AFX) - The Financial Services Agency (FSA) said it has told Mizuho Securities to improve its operations, after a botched trade in the shares of a newly-listed company jolted the stock market recently.

On Dec 8, a trader at Mizuho Securities punched in an order to sell 610,000 shares in newly listed J-Com Co at one yen each, instead of the intended one share at 610,000 yen, which resulted in an estimated loss of 330 million US$ for Mizuho Securities.

The order for the shares of J-Com was more than 42 times the total number of J-Com's outstanding shares, making it difficult for Mizuho Securities to settle its position.

The FSA issued an administrative order demanding that the stockbroker review its system for placing orders, improve its computer system, establish an appropriate risk-management system and report on its progress by Jan 20.

'We would like to apologize for causing serious inconvenience to those concerned, and would like to make utmost efforts to prevent a recurrence,' Mizuho Securities President Makoto Fukuda said in a statement.

Mizuho Securities recently set up a committee, comprising five legal and audit experts, to come up with a plan to prevent any recurrence of such incidents. It did not say when the committee is supposed to finish its work.

The Tokyo Stock Exchange has admitted that a fault in its system prevented the Mizuho trader from cancelling the order after he realized the mistake.

Last week, the FSA issued a similar administrative order to the exchange demanding that it ascertain the cause of the botched trade, take measures to prevent a recurrence, review its market surveillance system, clarify where responsibility lies and report on its progress by the end of January.

The exchange announced this week that its president, Takuo Tsurushima, had resigned to take responsibility for the botched trade.
Ever since I first came across this, I keep having flashbacks. It seems that the selling broker made desperate efforts to stop the transaction but it took over four hours. My mind sees little Japanese functionaries hitting ctl-alt-del. Then the Big Red Button is invoked. Then there is a rush round the building yanking at every computer wire in sight. New keyboards delivered to replace those ctl-alt-del'td to destruction. Lifts melting under the load of messengers sent hither and yon. The broker getting home - sad faced - and wifey saying "Have a good day at the office dear?"

It would be nice to think that those who participated in the frantic buying would unwind the deals but exchanges do not work like that. You sell it - it's sold. There are trading positions where traders "go long" or "go short". I reckon this guy has just created another - go dead.

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